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A empty field to 21 homes, a thriving community

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Asheville Habitat is excited to announce the completion of its first neighborhood in South Buncombe- a 21-home community in Arden. Preliminary infrastructure began in the fall of 2016 and the last family bought their home, Student Build #4, in April of 2019.

AmeriCorps Get Things Done

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By Maddy Alewine  It’s hard to put into a nice, neat paragraph how AmeriCorps impacts Asheville Habitat and in turn, the community. This year’s five AmeriCorps- Sydney, Billy, Nora, Kaitlyn, and Mackenzie- started their year with us jumping in head first, taking on each new challenge with gusto and passion.

It begins with us

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By Maddy Alewine, Communications Specialist

The results of the 2018 midterms are usually described in superlatives. The 2019 congressional freshman class is the most racially diverse and the most female

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Partial group photo at Capitol Hill

group ever elected to the House. From the first Native American Congresswomen and the first Muslim Congresswomen to the most number of veterans, one of the largest freshman congressional classes is bringing a lot of diverse voices to the table. Last week, hundreds of Habitat for Humanity homeowners, volunteers, board members, and staff descended on Washington D.C. for the annual Habitat on the Hill (HOTH), to meet with this class of firsts and the hundreds of other legislators that represent our states.

Habitat also had a first. With over 350 attendees from 38 states and D.C., this was the largest Habitat on the Hill to date. Habitat representatives from Maine to Hawaii filled the conference room at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in D.C., and Asheville was in attendance- myself, Homeowner Selection Specialist and Habitat homeowner Shannon Kauffman, and former Board chair David Whilden.

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[From left] Maddy, Shannon, and David

The three of us were new to HOTH and Tuesday Feb. 12 we dove headfirst into a day of training, speakers, collaboration, and learning to prepare us for our meetings with legislators the next day. While I could spend days writing everything I learned, my biggest takeaway is best summed up by Habitat International’s Chief Operating Officer Tjada D’Oyen McKenna: “Advocacy is vital to Habitat’s mission that everyone has a decent place to live.”

The whole time there was this sense of urgency that flowed between all of us, enforced by the fact that so many of us felt it important enough to travel from so far to D.C. (I see you, Hawaii) and devote time away from our usual tasks to become better advocates. The simple truth is this: Habitat for Humanity can no longer just build houses. That’s just not who we, as an organization, are anymore- we’re more than that. Advocating for affordable housing policies has to become a part of every Habitat affiliate’s DNA in order to a) be able to continue building and repairing affordable homes despite the rising cost of building and housing and b) advocate for policies so people don’t have to need Habitat to have a decent, affordable place to live.

In our day of training, author Richard Rothstein who wrote The Color of Law, spoke to the crowd about the history of how our government at the local, state and federal levels segregated housing. The harsh reality is that black homeownerhsip is at the same level as when the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968. Fifty-one years and it hasn’t changed. We cannot talk about affordable housing solutions without the undeniable truth that unconstitutional housing policy did and still does leave people of color, particularly black communities, far behind in the ability to accumulate wealth and have a decent place to live. We all have a responsibility to remedy this.

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Shannon and David outside Rep. David Price’s office after greeting his staff.

The next day armed with knowledge, our local stories, and specific policy asks, David, Shannon and I put on our best walking shoes and trudged around the Senate and House buildings to meet with our elected officials. While we did not have a scheduled meeting with Rep. Mark Meadows, while getting slightly lost on our way to drop off materials at his office, we ran into the Congressman and spoke for a minute. He seemed genuinely pleased we had come from Asheville to bring housing concerns of Western NC to the Capitol. We also stopped in the office of Rep. David Price. Although not our district, this NC Congressman chairs the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

For our next stop, we teamed up with about 15 fellow North Carolinians from Habitats around the state to meet with a staff member of Sen. Burr. While meeting with a staff member seems less exciting than the actual elected official, legislators’ staff often have more in-depth knowledge about specific issues and are the ones discussing these with their respective Senator or Representative. Legislative Assistant Robert Sneeden asked questions and was engaged as homeowners shared how owning a home has empowered them, as eastern state Habitats talked about the need for disaster relief, the rising cost of housing, the importance of AmeriCorps and much more.

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A group photo after our meeting with Sen. Burr’s Legislative Assistant Robert Sneeden.

A much smaller group- the three of us from Asheville, two from Charlotte and one staff member from Fayetteville- then ran (literally) back to the previous Senate building to meet with staff from Rep. Patrick McHenry. Meeting with Rep.

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[Left to right] Shannon, David, and Brandon Price of Fayetteville Habitat in Rep. McHenry’s office.

McHenry’s Legislative Director Doug Nation, we got to have much more personal conversations. We talked a lot about a common stereotype about Habitat- that Habitat gives houses away to people that are homeless. Shannon shared her story that echoed the reality that people who qualify for Habitat homes are bank tellers, hospital workers, barbers, servers, teachers, and other full-time working professionals because housing is just that expensive and affordable housing is scarce. Mr. Nation even shared with us that he used to volunteer with Habitat while in college, which speaks to the wide reach Habitat has. It’s hard to meet someone who hasn’t volunteered with, donated to, worked for, bought a house through, or at least heard of Habitat.

It’s easy to be cynical about politics. I know I usually am. But something stuck with me that David Dworkin, President and CEO of the National Housing Conference said during our training. He said that yes, big money opens doors on Capitol Hill and that’s a fact. But, those money interests only lobby so hard as to compete with the power of all of our voices. As Asheville Habitat grows its ability to advocate more, we are alongside a network of thousands all across the country utilizing Habitat’s powerful voice- that reaches Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between- with the message that
everyone deserves a decent place to live.

The Unpaid Bills… But Not the Kind You’re Thinking

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By Sydney Monshaw

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity has many unpaid Bills – but not the kind you’re thinking. These Bills have chosen to be left unpaid, donating their time and energy, often a few times a week, to help build and repair homes for families, primarily in Buncombe county. Though one Bill volunteers in Henderson County, too! There are seven Bills in total, but as Bill Durant a Friday Core volunteer mused, “Comparable to the stack on my desk – both are increasing.” While this group started as something silly to refer to the growing number of core volunteers named Bill who receives their pay in the form of gratitude and sore muscles, The Unpaid Bills has become an identity for these men who make up a community within the larger group of weekly Core Habitat construction volunteers.

Bill Reid, Bill Ryan, Bill Winkler, part of the Thursday core volunteers

Bill Lineberry

This group of dedicated Bills ranges in years of experience, some having as many as 15 years as a volunteer. The rookie Bill, also the medical Bill (a retired doctor), will be celebrating his one year anniversary as a core volunteer this December. Most, however, fall somewhere in the middle, with about 7 years of service on average. At least one Bill is out on the new home construction job site almost every day of the week! On Mondays Bill Winkler represents the “Unpaid Bills,” Tuesday Bill Bechtold and Bill McDowall hold down the fort, Thursday Bill Winkler joins Bill Reid and Bill Ryan for his second shift of the week, and on Friday Bill Durant, Bill Kantonen, and Bill Lineberry are working hard to close out the week. All of these Bills are committed to building a better future, one day at a time.

When asked what they enjoy most about volunteering, here is what a few Bills had to say:

“I enjoy all aspects of volunteering -The work fits my desired activities and skill set; the other volunteers and staff are exactly the type of people I enjoy being around – the BEST! The satisfaction of contributing to the Asheville community is highly rewarding.” – Bill Winkler (Tuesday, Thursday)

“I enjoy most the camaraderie with my fellow volunteers and in helping people who are willing to try to improve their situation in life.” – Bill Durant (Friday)

Bill Durant

“Helping folks, camaraderie of the build teams, and learning how to build/repair things the right way. (Also the nutritious break time snacks.)” – Bill Reid (Thursday)

“Helping deserving people have a home of their own while working with great bunch of people. It has also been a great hands-on learning experience. Although I had done some construction work and have a General Contractors License, I was surprised at how little I really knew.”– Bill McDowall (Tuesday)

Bill McDowall

“There are multiple factors that I like about volunteering, foremost among these are:

  1. The efficiency of the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity Organization
  2. The professionalism of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity staff
  3. The camaraderie among Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity volunteers
  4. The opportunity to contribute to the local community in a meaningful way.” – Bill Bechtold (Tuesday)

Bill Bechtold

 

“What I like best is the combination of fun work that benefits the community and the opportunity to work with great future homeowners (super folks), great staff, and great volunteers. Making a difference.” – Bill Ryan (Thursday)

Bill Kantonen

You would never know that the Bills go unpaid at Habitat. They work with integrity and commitment, living out the mission of Habitat – bringing people together to build homes, communities, and hope. For them, it is about so much more than the lumber, nails, paint, and shingles that create a house – it is about the community, camaraderie, and sense of belonging that truly builds a home. Bill Bechtold captured perfectly the feeling of being one of the “Unpaid Bills.” He said, “Being an Unpaid Bill reminds me to feel grateful that I am healthy enough and fortunate enough to do something meaningful in the community for people who deserve a hand up.”

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity is fortunate to have so many unpaid Bills who keep coming back week after week. They, like all of the core volunteers, take home their pay stubs in the form of muddy boots and strong friendships, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Advocating for Affordable Housing in Raleigh

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By Maddy Jones, Communications Coordinator 

Every year Habitat staff, board members and homeowners from affiliates all across North Carolina descend on Raleigh to participate in a Legislative Day. This year, roughly 30 Habitat representatives, including myself and future Asheville Habitat homeowner Staci Williams, spent Monday June 18th learning about affordable housing policy. We spent that blazing Monday afternoon in the cool, air-conditioned comfort of First Baptist Church in Raleigh listening to policy and political advice, wisdom, and knowledge from Republican Senator Jeff Tarte, lobbyists, the NC Housing Coalition, and Habitat International’s Government Relations team. The next day, Staci and I hit the Legislative Buildings and met with Representative Susan Fisher. Staci ran the show- describing her journey, her three wonderful children, and her excitement of closing on her home in August.

Although this year’s budget was already passed, this was a great opportunity to build on Asheville Habitat’s relationships with elected officials representing Western North Carolina. With 12,000 Buncombe County households (7,000 renters and 5,000 homeowners, ACS 2016) currently paying more than 50% of income on housing, the need for affordable housing continues to grow. At Habitat, we know we cannot out build the problem, so advocating for greater affordable housing support and solutions is crucial. It’s important to support increased funding to the state’s Housing Trust Fund that provides a flexible pot of money for not just Habitats across the state, but to be used for affordable rental opportunities, emergency response funds, repairs, and more. Asheville Habitat, along with other Habitats across the state, will continue to build relationships and advocate for affordable housing policies.

Maddy Jones and Staci Williams with Rep. Susan Fisher

A Strong Start for Women Build #13

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Women Build House #13 officially began construction April 17, and since then Asheville Habitat has seen numerous dedicated groups of sponsors out at the jobsite in Arden lending a hand. There may have been a lot of rain, but that didn’t put a damper on the volunteers or the house progress. Volunteers worked diligently, under the watchful eye of Construction Supervisor John Meadows, to build frames for the walls and raise them. Several Blueprint Sponsors were present at the jobsite- WomBATS kicked-off the build and this week the Fiji Hammerheads, Peggy Crowe Realtor, and the Wild Bodemas all spent a day working together on Ashley Blankenship‘s future home.

For the 11th year, Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s are engaging women nationwide to work together to build Habitat homes during this year’s National Women Build Week from May 5-13, 2018. On Friday, May 11th Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s hosted a special volunteer work day where Women Build and Lowe’s volunteers worked alongside future homeowner Ashley Blankenship on Women Build House #13 and then celebrated together with a potluck lunch and a home dedication. Renowned cookbook author and homesteader Ashley English of Small Measure joined and talked about the importance of community and home.

To see a WLOS clip, click here.

Click here to view a photo gallery from the event!

Thank You March Madness Volunteers!

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As we near the end of this year’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity takes a look back to recognize all the amazing students and Collegiate Challenge groups who traveled to Asheville in March to volunteer with us. Students came from all over the country including the University of Florida, College of Charleston, University of Wisconsin, and Lesley University (Massachusetts).

Click this photo to view an album!

Students worked at the jobsite in Arden, alongside future homeowners and core volunteers. The highlight of the week is always a group dinner with a homeowner family. Lesley University students and future homeowner LaQuila Harris celebrated Pie Day on March with pizza and dessert pies!

“It’s amazing to see different people coming together, and see the students really learn and connect,” Construction Services Volunteer Coordinator Stephanie Wallace recalled. “Core volunteers rallied together to get Biltmore Estate tickets for each group of students, going above and beyond to make the students’ experience in Asheville that much more memorable.”

Lesley University students with LaQuila Harris and her daughter in the ReStore.

Stephanie added, “The generosity around this particular month was really special.”

For many of the students, this experience is one they will never forget and leaves a lasting impact. Stephanie recalled Sofia Atzrodt, a University of Florida student, who began the week very timidly and lacking confidence in her building skills at the jobsite. Throughout the week, with mentorship from the construction staff, Sofia became empowered and really flourished.

“I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from a week long Habitat trip with eight strangers, but I have come out of it with close and meaningful friendships, a new sense of purpose, and a different perspective of the world,” Sofia remarked.

University of Florida student Ajay Patel offered this reflection: “The experience of building something for another human cannot be paralleled. These people blew us away with their hospitality, life knowledge, and especially warm hearts. If done correctly this experience should help restore your faith in humanity.”

 

Photos: Holt Pearce’s Journey to Homeownership

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Holt Pearce came to Asheville because of the music of Warren Haynes. Anyone who has volunteered with Habitat’s Before the Jam, Lend a Hand program over the past eight years is well acquainted with Holt. He is the kind of guy who places importance on helping others. After years of helping others on their path to homeownership, he applied and decided to allow other to help him.

On Thursday November 16th Holt Pearce closed on his affordable 2 bedroom/one bathroom home, making him and his daughter Piper the final family to purchase and move into their home on McKinley Avenue! Best wishes to Holt and Piper as they start this new chapter of their lives!

Holt on his first day of sweat equity.

Holt with his daughter Piper at a key passing for a Christmas Jam House in 2013, before applying for homeownership.

His daughter Piper signing a stud during the kick-off event for their house.

Holt signing his closing documents Nov. 16, 2017 at Roberts & Stevens in downtown Asheville.

Holt working at McKinley Avenue March 2017.

Holt shouts “hello” to his next door neighbor’s youngest daughter as she waves while moving in Thursday Nov. 16.

Holt in front of his affordable home he purchased that morning, Thursday Nov. 16.

Sponsors Join on to Business Bungalow #3

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Local Businesses Partner to Sponsor Business Bungalow House #3

Affordable housing continues to be one of the most pressing, unmet needs in our region. Studies* have shown that the combination of a lack of affordable units, a critically low vacancy rate and a significant projected population growth will make housing availability in our area, especially affordable housing, a rare commodity.

The local business community is coming together to address this issue head-on by sponsoring the 3rd Business Bungalow home. Eaton Corporation has made a generous lead gift of $20,000. Businesses of all sizes can make any level of contribution to support affordable housing.

This is your opportunity to be part of the solution. Together we can build a Habitat house, address a pressing community need, and most importantly, transform the life of another family. Come join us!

*The January 2015 Regional Housing Analysis by Bowen Research Group, commissioned by the City of Asheville.

Visit our Sponsors Page to see all the local businesses participating!

Read about the family and check in on the house construction!

Events

  • Every Monday, October – December 17 – Altar’d State
    • 10% of sales every Monday throughout the rest of 2017
  • October 24, 2017 – Virgola Italian Wine Bar
    • 10% of sales from 4 – 10 pm
  • November 18, 2017 – Second Gear
    • stud signing event from 11 am – 2 pm
    • next door at Whist, 10% of sales
  • March 8, 2018 – Rezaz
    • 15% of proceeds from Grand ReOpening lunch & dinner
    • 10% of sale from “Herbal Habitat” specialty cocktail, through 3/31/18

Donate

Anyone can support Business Bungalow #3, not just businesses! Click here to donate online. Select Business Bungalow in Area of Support.

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